Sunday, February 24, 2008

Bad hair days for wine

At this stage, there's something I need to tell you. It adds another level of complexity to wine tasting, but we can't ignore it.

It's the fact that wines show differently on different days. It's not clear why, but the same bottle opened on a Tuesday might taste different to the same bottle opened on Friday. It's known in the trade as 'bad hair days' for wine. Well, actually, it isn't but it should be. I've only heard the phrase mentioned once, by winewriter Simon Woods (pictured), and I like it.

What's the explanation? I can think of several. First, it could be that we change from day to day in our ability to taste. It could be our hormones; it could be our mood; it could be whether we have the beginnings of a cold; or it could be the other wines we've just tasted, or food we've recently eaten, that have affected our palate.

Context could matter: where and when we are tasting the wine.

Atmospheric pressure may have an effect - wines could taste better on bright days with high pressure than they do on cloudy, low-pressure days. Ambient temperature and humidity are likely to factor here, too.

And there's also the biodynamic calendar. Stop sniggering at the back: some UK supermarkets actually schedule their press tastings to take into account whether it is a shoot day or a root day. I'm not sure which is best.

The long and short of it is that experienced people in the trade think that there's something real about the fact that wines have these 'bad hair days', although personally I suspect this explanation is marshalled more often for wines with the 'right' labels than it is for humble wines.